News / Africa

Disabilities Prevent Aging Africans from Being Productive

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
Africa’s rapidly aging population is developing disabilities that limit their ability to be productive, according to a study conducted by researchers in the U.S. and Malawi.  It also found that women and men 45 years of age had severe limitations comparable to 80 year olds in the US. 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania said the findings are significant as older people with functional limitations have difficulty performing work that is required in their agricultural settings.  If not addressed, the economic consequences could be devastating to the income of families whose livelihoods depend on food production. 

Collin Payne, lead researcher  of the study, and graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that the data that was used was based on the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health.  It’s an ongoing look at rural populations in Malawi conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

“What we’re measuring are different kinds of inabilities to perform daily life activities in this rural context-- so taking care of livestock, helping out on the farm, these types of activities.  We find that women at age 45 expect to spend about 60 percent of their remaining life unable to do some of these tasks.  For men, the figures are about 40 percent.  And as individuals age older and older, their remaining life that they can do some of these daily activities, it’s shorter and shorter,”  explained Payne.     

While the study did not focus on any particular diseases that would have contributed to the rapid deterioration of physical abilities, Payne said the decline in their health could very well be attributed to a life time of hardship starting at birth.  

“I think in large part, it is due to sort of this overall life-long burden of disability.  From birth to death there’s a lot of exposure to chronic, communicable and non-communicable diseases burdened with some periods of under-nutrition early in the life course. So by the time people are reaching their mid-forties and fifties, they’ve already experienced a lot of pressures on their health, and these are compounded later in the later life,” said Payne.    

As a result, he said, there needs to be a revision of current national health policies and international donor funded health programs.

The lead researcher noted, “I think in large part what could help individual health is a larger focus from individual countries in the region, larger non-governmental organizations, and other policy groups, to expand availability of basic health care services to this population.  It is a very underserved population.  It’s a population that is growing rapidly.  In 2010, the population over 45 years in sub-Saharan Africa was only 10 percent of the population.  U.N. projections say that by 2060 it’s going to be a quarter of the population.”     

Dr. Hans Peter Kohler, another of the researchers of the study, agreed with Payne that most health interventions have focused on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and other diseases like malaria. 

However, Kohler said their study is significant in that it points out that there should more health care policies that focus on chronic illnesses and disabilities.

“We know from other studies that pain is presumably a very big issue.  And so, what we are arguing here is that these disease patterns and the effect on the economic implications are not very well understood, but they’re very dramatic in the sense about how much they actually limit an individual’s abilities to work and perform day to day tasks,” explained Kohler.       

The researchers of the study agreed that investing in the health of older men and women will also bring about improvements in the quality of their lives but also, boost economic growth for generations to come.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid